Contractors State License Board, Bonney Plumbing Reach Settlement
Company agrees to multiple terms, including consumer restitution and new business plans
SACRAMENTO – The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and Bonney Plumbing Heating Air & Rooter Service (Bonney), of Rancho Cordova, have agreed to a stipulated settlement to end an administrative case that could have led to revocation of the company’s three contractor licenses (#696355, #983208, and #987387), as well as the sole ownership license of long-time company owner Richard Mark Bonney (#397205).
CSLB filed an accusation against the licenses in September 2014, after receiving several consumer complaints about the company overcharging customers, failing to pull necessary building permits, misrepresenting work that needed to be done, and using unregistered salespeople when contracting for home improvement work. Several of the customers were in their 80s and 90s.
The founder and initial qualifier of Bonney Plumbing, Mark Bonney, disassociated from the company’s main license (#696355) in November 2014. The complaints were filed for work done while Mr. Bonney was responsible for the company’s operations.
Under the settlement, CSLB has agreed to withdraw its accusation to suspend or revoke Bonney’s licenses; instead, CSLB is issuing six citations, per Business and Professions Code section 7099. Those citations carry a total fine amount of $12,000, and will be disclosed on CSLB’s license look-up feature for five years.
“We are pleased that Bonney’s new owners addressed this matter promptly,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi A. Christenson. “The company has agreed to provide restitution for financially injured customers, and develop a series of business plans to avoid the potential for future contracting law violations.”
As part of the settlement, CSLB also will have increased authority to review Bonney contracts and related documents.
The Bonney Plumbing case highlights the need for consumers to understand the difference between a service and repair contract and a home improvement contract.
A “service and repair” contract is used when immediate or emergency work is needed and the total cost will be under $750, such as for a broken air-conditioner or plumbing issue; and the “home improvement contract,” which is any job that is not an emergency and will cost $500 or more in combined labor and material costs.
It’s important that consumers understand which type of contract they’re entering before signing. A service and repair contract is for immediate work and has no cancellation clause, but a home improvement contract provides the consumer with a three-day right to cancel, which enables time to obtain estimates from other contractors.
If, during a repair visit, the technician identifies other non-immediate mechanical or safety concerns, CSLB recommends getting additional bids from other licensed contractors before hiring someone. If the work happens to be immediately necessary and is more than $750, keep in mind that the contract you sign should be a home improvement contract, which provides additional consumer protections, such as who will pull the necessary construction permits from the local building department.
Also be aware that a home improvement contract can only be negotiated by the license’s personnel of record, or a registered home improvement salesperson (HIS). If the work is part of a home improvement contract, the contractor is not allowed to charge more than 10 percent of the total cost or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment.
In California, any contractor who offers a bid that is $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be licensed with CSLB in their specific trade. If a contractor uses salespeople to represent the company, each must be registered with CSLB as an HIS. Both contractors and salespeople are issued pocket cards by CSLB with their license or registration information. Consumers can ask to see the pocket card and a photo identification to make sure the information is accurate.
CSLB encourages consumers to always “Check the License First” by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling CSLB’s toll-free automated line 800.321.CSLB (2752). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB email alerts.
The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates California’s 290,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2013-14, CSLB helped recover nearly $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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